Catastrophic events like a hurricane, 9/11, loss of a job or a spouse can knock us to our knees. Adversity packs a powerful punch. If you’ve lived long enough you’ve seen it first hand. Your grown son has been arrested. A spouse is diagnosed with cancer. An aging parent lingers in poor health. Your business plummets. A loved one has a mental breakdown. Often these events seem to come out of nowhere and feel completely unmanageable as we struggle to regain our footing and some semblance of “normal.”
But, like great trees, humans can grow stronger when exposed to the powerful winds of adversity. This is easy to say, — but we all know of those who didn’t grow stronger. They broke in the wind. Is it possible to increase our inner strength and flexibility so we not only survive the adversity, but thrive in it? Here are seven strategies that can make a significant difference for you.
Tip one: Be optimistic and think creatively. Trust that there’s a solution to every problem and let your imagination soar. Approach the problem from new and different directions. Perhaps rather than losing your home, you could find a housemate whose rent would make the difference between paying the mortgage or not.
Tip two: Take the long view. Recount other times when you have overcome challenges. How did you do it? Who or what helped you? Who or what can help you this time?
Tip three: Get support. No one can handle everything alone. When you get that overwhelmed feeling-or even before-reach out. Ask for help. Next time, ask for it sooner. You’ll be amazed by how much better you feel.
Tip four: Maintain a sense of humor. There’s truth in the adage: “Laughter is the best medicine.” Even in the darkest of times, laughter can help ease the pain. As a close friend reminded me, if there is breath, there’s hope.
Tip five: Have courage and speak up. Courage is taking action despite the fear you feel. If someone isn’t taking you seriously, speak up. Be your own advocate. Tell that person what you want and need. Don’t assume he or she “should know.”
Tip six: Take responsibility. Look at your role in the situation. Was the event, in fact, predictable? You may have had more control over the situation than you realized. At the same time, don’t take more responsibility than is warranted. If your daughter develops a brain tumor it’s not because you did something wrong. Be honest, but don’t point fingers, not even at yourself.
Tip seven: Don’t quit. Persistence may be the greatest human quality that helps us overcome adversity. Draw inspiration from the great heroes of the world-George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Mahatma Gandhi-people who persisted despite the odds. Remember, you are your own best ally. And you’re stronger and more resilient than you thought.
To overcome adversity, you must be thoughtful and purposeful about it. To enjoy beautiful art, be thoughtful and purposeful as well. Let it serve as a reminder of the strength and beauty that surrounds you in our often unsettled world.